Saturday 31 December 2011

Rusland Battleship Number 1: Krasnyi Dekabrya

Krasnyi Dekabrya - the first of a class of two ships built for the Rusland navy in the Fezian Sea

Pictured above is the partially completed first model of a class of two battleships built for the Rusland navy based in the Fezian Sea. As yet she is incomplete as I shall be painting the superstructure, turrets, floatplane and ships boats whilst they are off the hull - I find it easier to paint this way. the prominent holes in the superstructure are of course where the ship's boats will be located.

Krasnyi Dekabrya - as she is at the moment!

The hull is from a piece of 5mm thick balsa wood and is topped with some ready grooved plastic card which serves very nicely as wooden decking. All the ship fittings originated from a Revell 1/1200th Duke of York battleship and the entire superstructure was built as per the kit instructions and merely had the decking trimmed away. The main turret rings were cut out and two of them placed on top of one another in order to get the super firing effect. I had to chop up the second kit for the additional turret ring and another pair of twin 5.25" DP turrets. I will need to acquire a further Revell DoY kit but this will furnish not only the remaining parts for the sister ship (Krasnyi Yanvarya) of the Krasnyi Dekabrya but also for the modernised battle cruiser: Vlast Narodu.

Krasnyi Dekabrya - viewed from the business end

Once the 'off hull' pieces have been painted (as well as the hull of course) it will merely be a case of gluing them in place on the hull. I have a number of additional hull items to add - the belt armour prominent on a KGV battleship as well as the wet weather board and possibly some capstans used for the anchors.

Paint scheme wise she will be overall light grey with light tan decking - I have yet to think about the float plane though! Her origins can be clearly seen but she is different enough to be, well, different and when the models are built and painted I shall provide a 'back story' as to how the design came about - just to add a little flavour. At the time of writing the technical details and specifications of this ship is a closely guarded state secret but no doubt D'Arcy's All the World's Warships 1936 will hopefully provide some details - certainly the Fezian Party for Unity and Progress (P.U.P) will be hoping so....;-)

The ship measures roughly just under 6" long which is about as large as I want to go for this project given that the models are being built specifically for use on my Hexon terrain tiles. The basic idea of using existing ship components on a reduced size hull in order to create something original seems to work out very nicely and so I shall enjoy the coming weeks as I churn out more models for the two navies.

And yes, I enjoyed making this model enormously!

Friday 30 December 2011

1935 Rusland Battleships - With Varied Inspiration

The French Battleship Jean Bart

I have finally started on the ships for the Fezian and Rusland navies for 1935 and I had forgotten just how much fun chopping plastic kits about could be!

HMS King George 5th

The first two models are the latest battleships to join the Rusland navy (latest as in most modern) and will be supported by some refitted earlier types to form a powerful squadron for use in the Fezian Sea. The ships are currently under construction but they owe a debt of inspiration to the Royal Navy KGV class as well as the Nelson and Rodney with a dash of the French Jean Bart thrown in for good measure.

HMS Nelson off Spithead

Essentially I have taken the entire central superstructure from a Revel Duke of York kit; together with the quad 14" turrets and am mounting them on a smaller hull with both turrets forward a la Nelson/Jean Bart. The rationale behind the design owes its inspiration to the very much earlier Russian Sinope class battleship - mounting three twin 12" barbettes with two of these forward. The reason for this vast amount of forward firepower was to be able to engage targets whilst attempting to force the Bosporus strait. Clearly somebody in the Rusland naval design bureau had done his research!

The Russian  Battleship Sinope - note the forward pair of barbettes

As soon as these two are built I will of course post the pictures - even though they probably will not be painted just yet.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Fezia and Rusland - circa.1935

Plastic Soldier 15mm Russian Infantry - painted far better than I could manage!

I must confess to having been particularly lethargic over the holiday period and so modelling and gaming has been virtually non-existent. I have managed to carry out some concentrated 'pottering' though the spare hours have not been entirely idle. I have spent some time thinking great thoughts about how to take both Fezia and Rusland forward to the mid 1930s and have more or less worked out what I am going to need and the shape the end result will take. Without further ado then, I will share my 'vision' and how it will be realised.

On Land

I have acquired a box of the 15mm hard plastic 'Plastic Soldier: Russian Infantry in Summer Uniform' set which contains 130 figures and is suitable for both the Rusland and Fezian infantry element. As far as I have been able to tell the Russian uniform would be fine as is and in 15mm is close enough to what  a Turkish soldier was wearing at the time to make no difference. Obviously as an 'imagi-nation' it makes little difference but the historical cut seems quite similar although the Turkish army wore some strange looking leggings which replaced the WW1 era puttees. There is a box of Russian heavy weapons due next year which will doubtless furnish HMGs, mortars and possibly some AT weapons; again, this can readily be split between the two forces. Vehicles will come primarily from Zvezda from their 'Art of Tactic' range - especially the T26 and BT5, not to mention the trucks. I shall need to get some artillery (Plastic Soldier are releasing some in due course but the numbers I shall need will be very small and can probably be sourced from Irregular Miniatures if need be). I may also raid Peter Pig for some bits and pieces and the Spanish Civil War range may yield some useful items. I have sourced some Roco T28 and T35 tanks (a pair of each) and so the former will be got to Fezia (the Turks actually had two of these from Russia!) whilst the T35 will be used by Rusland. Fezia will use T26 and Vickers light tanks whilst Rusland will use BT5s and T26s.

Rusland T28 soon to be in Fezian service

At Sea

The two navies will be largely conversions from currently available 1/1200th plastic kits. Rather the fixtures and fittings will be used on scratch built balsa and plastic card hulls with a maximum size of around 7" in length. This is because I plan to use my Hexon terrain but with larger models covering two hexes. The rule implications of this are quite simple - basically I will assume that the model is only occupying the hex that the bow is in and so all movement and measurement is from there! I already have a number of models in mind including, for starters, a cut down KGV in which the super firing twin turret is removed leaving a ship with two quad turrets - one forward and one aft. The Gneisenau will also come in for some similar treatment; as will the Hood and Bismarck, not to mention the cruisers and Tribal class destroyer from the Airfix set. In effect I will be placing most of a ships superstructure on a smaller hull and then messing around with the detail to create some unique models.

That is the plan and so reaching for my trusty copy of Conway's 1922 to 1946 will be the research of choice for a few days at least!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

The Russo-Fezian War of 1935

What might have been - the bread and butter of a war game (German 'O' class battle cruiser)

I have mentioned in previous posts that I would like to tackle a couple of forces for both Fezia and Rusland (aka Russia and Turkey) for around about the mid 1930s. Plans are afoot to tackle the land element in 15mm in due course and naturally I have also considered the naval angle. The answer to the naval question has proven to be quite simple although I dare say it may appear to be something like heresy to the hard core model maker.

I plan to construct a couple of fleets based on the fixtures and fittings available from within the Airfix Sink the Bismarck set and whatever Revell models I can acquire. The emphasis is on the 'fixtures and fittings' part of the previous sentence as I will probably design the ships from the hull upwards but will make extensive use of the various turrets, boats, masts, superstructures, funnels, cranes - even catapults and floatplanes.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The ships will be unique and based on generic examples of their type
  • I can scale the largest types to fit easily on a pair of Hexon tiles - I am looking at a maximum hull size of  around 6 to 7" - probably from Balsa or stepped plastic card.
  • I have other plans for the existing model hulls....;-)
  • It will be fun to tackle!
As far as the 'historical' North Atlantic 1941 is concerned I shall opt to make use of 1/3000th scale models - simply because I will have no problems in acquiring the models I need - rather than 1/1200th as these will be the models of choice for both Fezia and Rusland.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

To Bismarck, or not to Bismarck....That is the question...

What could any sane man possibly want with three Ark Royals/Hoods/Bismarcks?

I am somewhat on the horns of a dilemma (again!). I have all the ships I need bar a couple for the Minifigs/BMC pre dreadnought Fezian and Rusland navies - certainly more than enough to be going on with; the extra models are purely to flesh out the selection available - so am in a position to crack on with the painting forthwith. The 1/1200th WW2 collection centred around the Airfix Sink the Bismarck set needs rather more in terms of additional models to be at the same level of readiness but could be pressed into service in a limited way should the need arise.

Definitely one for the mould - as near to a bog standard pre dreadnought configuration as you are likely to get!

The problem I have is one of my my own making in that I really want to have a go at home casting some of the Minifigs ships. This is fine but of course means that I will not be able to paint the key models being used as masters until the moulds have been made and tested. I intend experimenting with this just as soon as I am able although I will need to research the process further first of all.

The WW2 set up currently consists of three copies of the aforementioned Airfix set, a pair of Revell Duke of Yorks and a pair of Gneisenaus. I have a few potential additional acquisitions in mind for this from various sources but of course this will take some time to realise. I would prefer to have the entire collection in place before starting the  building and painting (I work far better this way rather than on an 'as you go' basis) so this means that at the present time I am at a little bit of an impasse in respect of which set up to pursue.

A further problem I have with the WW2 kit concerns rules - rather my own rules for the period as thus far they have not even been drafted. I have a shed load of WW2 naval rules that could be used so this really is not a problem as such although I would prefer to do my own thing if possible.

Taking all this into consideration I think that my path will look something like this:

  • Investigate home casting
  • Start making up the plastic kits (and painting them)
  • FINISH THE ACW MODELS!!!! - this should be first really!
Which ever way it pans out I will be in for some fun times and so the dilemma is really more along the lines of an embarrassment of riches - which is a very pleasant situation to be in when all is said and done!

Monday 26 December 2011

Phew! That has been exhausting but fun!

                                                             Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar "El Cid"

I have had a fantastic Christmas - albeit an exhausting one. The food and drink has been plentiful and the family has been on top form despite the lingering after effects of the various coughs, colds and other seasonal maladies.

Santa has been very generous this year and so I am now the proud owner of another two sets of Airfix 1:1200th scale Sink the Bismarck kits; a copy of Warhammer Historical's Gladiator rules and a number of Blu-rays for the collection including: Das Boot, Ben Hur, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and El Cid - which is one of my all time favourite films and would also be the only reason I would ever produce an 11th century army of any description.

All I need now then is a day or so on my own with a plate of Christmas comestibles and several glasses of seasonal good cheer and I shall be set fair for wargaming nirvana....;-)

Saturday 24 December 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future....

"God bless us, every one!"

A Christmas tradition for me is that every year I make a point of reading 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens again and as a story it never fails to get me fully in the festive spirit. The fact that I am also working in the heart of the city of London where the story is set has added to the experience this year for sure - especially as my office is located more or less on top of where I think Scrooge was located!

As it is that time again I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year. Feel free to choose whichever one suits your particular circumstances best of all!

I will leave the sentiment best expressed by Tiny Tim as my seasonal greeting of choice - courtesy of the Muppets amongst others....

"God bless us, every one!"

Have a great time and hopefully some quality 'toys' as well....;-)

Thursday 22 December 2011

Breaking the Mould

Regular readers of this blog will have no doubt seen the various posts concerning the Minifigs/BMC ships I have acquired and of my continuing search for some others to complete the navies of both Fezia and Rusland. Whilst I am happy to trawl through Ebay and visit toy fairs and the like it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it would be easier to merely drop cast the models I require. This is virgin territory for me - both from a practical and legal perspective - and so I will need to carry out some serious research into the feasibility of such an approach.

I am quite sure that since the ranges are in fact no longer available - either from Minifigs or BMC - the issue of copyright may no longer be a consideration (although I would have to check this). Commercially available mould making kits for home casting are easily obtained from any of a variety of sources and so for the numbers I envisage casting this would not be a major expense - nor would the original models used for such moulds need to be sacrificed. Of the models I own the detail is sufficiently basic that some pretty good copies could be made and now that I have some suitably generic types to play with this suddenly becomes a very attractive proposition.

I have a selection of battleships (including some dreadnoughts), cruisers and destroyers; together with a couple of submarines and a merchant ship that could be 'moulded' and I could even attempt some minor conversions that could then in turn be 'moulded'. There are a number of firms on Ebay and on the net that sell 1/1200th fixtures and fittings - including various calibres of gun turret - so the possibility of dressing up a basic home cast hull into something unique is a compelling temptation.

I also have a further avenue to consider with this as well….;-)

Wednesday 21 December 2011

That Warm Fuzzy Feeling....

"She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts kid!" H.Solo Star Wars Episode 4 - A New Hope
....that only comes when you have won something ridiculously cheap on Ebay! In this case - 99p plus postage!

Pictured above is the latest addition to my Minifigs/BMC ship collection currently earmarked for the Fezian and Rusland navies. She is a BMC die cast model in need of some painting TLC and by way of identification she has B3 stamped on her stern so once again I shall have to take a dip into Conways.

I was really pleased to have acquired this and reckon that all I now need is probably another couple of models and the entire collection is good to go on the paint tray.

She will be the Fezian fleet flagship and, with the startling degree of originality I am famed for, will probably be the 'not-the-Messudiye'.

A Turkey is for life and not just for target practice, ahem, Christmas....;-)

Monday 19 December 2011

An Unexpected and most Pleasant Surprise

It looks like the swampy bayous may be beckoning sooner rather than later....

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours this evening in a city drinking establishment with my old friend SteelonSand (steelonsand) in which we discussed matters many and varied from a gaming and modelling perspective as well as consuming a couple of seasonal beers. I was absolutely delighted and surprised when he presented me with a very good reason to get back on the ACW river 'horse' in the shape of the book you see pictured above - courtesy of an Oxfam Book Shop.

The book as an academic account of the background to the operations carried out by the Union on a combined arms basis. The book tackles the thorny subject of the political angle as well how the various plans evolved and the obstacles that routinely needed to be overcome (occasionally this involved the Confederate forces - usually it was the inter-departmental wrangling!). There are several useful maps and so this provides a very useful backdrop to my existing ACW library and also serves as a welcome reminder about the completion of all my outstanding models!

I would like to extend a very big thank you to SoS for this book and I am quite sure it will help enormously with my planned river based adventures.

Once the models are finished of course....;-)

Busy doing nothing....

The title says it all really! It has been a furiously busy few days on the domestic front - primarily centred around Holly, my daughter and her 16th birthday (and what a great day it was although I am still struggling to come to terms with the fact that she is 16 - the years have shot by at an alarming rate!) and the attendant celebrations - plus of course, Christmas. It has left me with little time for anything gaming related other than to fine tune an idea I have been flirting with for some time - more of which later.

You may be forgiven for thinking that it is probably naval related but of course, I couldn't possibly comment....

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Case of the 'Early Turret Battleship'

Number 13 Early Turret Battleship - I don't think so....

You may recall my recent post about the ships I shall be using for the navies of both Fezia and Rusland. These are the famed Minifigs ships with a couple of BMC originals thrown into the mix for good measure. The two mysterious pre dreadnought battleships have been tentatively identified as a pair of Swiftsure class (I say tentatively as they missing the very prominent midships cranes the class had - which does throw their parentage somewhat into doubt. My thanks once again to Steve Cady of Castles of Tin for the clarification) but I was at a loss to identify the three models listed as 'No.13 Early Turret Battleship'.

Highflyer Class - Suspect number 1

Arrogant Class - Suspect number 2

I had a good rummage through Conways last night (1860 to 1905) and as far as I am able to tell the models are closest to either an Arrogant or Highflyer class of protected cruiser. the biggest problem they have is that they have a turret fore and aft which neither class has. This may have been a Minifigs design feature (?) as from a side profile they look as though the guns and shields are in fact in the form of a turret. Minifigs had 'form' in getting aspects wrong on their naval models - for example, model number 11 - the Invincible class battle cruiser - has all the turrets along the centre line rather than 'winged'. Again if working exclusively from a side profile then this would be an obvious mistake to make.

For Fezia and Rusland then (actually Fezia) these models will be classed as protected cruisers and are of suitably indeterminate origin to not be an issue.

The past couple of days have seen me feeling less than energetic in respect of anything remotely gaming related due to a rotten cold/throat/chest infection and so pottering about with a copy of Conways has been about as good as it gets.

Monday 12 December 2011

A Swift, Sure Triumph....

A Swiftsure class battleship in what looks like a very fetching Victorian livery

With grateful thanks to Steve Cady (of Castles of Tin fame) the mystery of the two unidentified pre dreadnoughts has been solved. They are the two ships of the Swiftsure class second class battleships Swiftsure class battleship.

The Die Cast BMC models of the two Swiftsure class battleships

I must confess that I have always had a soft spot for these ships - probably because I am a sucker for non standard designs - so I am pleased to have them for use in the Fezian navy. I have slightly modified the overall approach that Fezia has taken towards her navy and so they now tend towards speed and lightness of armour and gunfire.

I am intentionally making the two fleets as different as possible in terms of capability so that the resultant actions will be tactically challenging. Having two equal forces of ships lined up against one another is not hugely exciting in my experience so 'mixing it up' means that the two sides have different things to consider from a gaming perspective - especially the firepower, speed and the protection of the opposing combatants.

Guns and Noses

With Christmas two weeks away and my daughter having her 16th birthday this week (lord alone knows where the years have gone!) it was a pretty busy weekend; darting hither and thither on various errands. As a result very little gaming related activity was undertaken other than swinging past Chris Hardman's house yesterday to collect the 'missing' Russian artillery for the Russo Turkish War collection. The Russians now have 9 guns and crews as well as a further 200 infantry and a couple of dozen Cossacks. I made a start on sorting the entire mountain of metal and now have a much clearer idea of what shape the final set up will take - and what will be disposed of in due course as the collection is way in excess of what I would be ever likely to need!

Whilst I was on my visit Chris very kindly showed me a box of the 15mm Plastic WW2 Russian and German infantry he has produced by theplasticsoldiercompany - and very nice they look as well. I was particularly interested in the Russians as I am considering using them as the basis for my 1935-40 Fezian and Rusland armies when I eventually get around to them. The box contains 130 figures and as long as you are not too fussy could be used for either side with a different paint job. A box of support weapons is due out at some point and they also produce some vehicles to go with the figures although are a little later than I would like. Having said that the Zvezda Art of Tactic 15mm models would suit admirably.

The reference to noses in the title of this post is due to the fact I have succumbed to a wretched cold and so the said part of my anatomy is rather resembling that of a certain seasonal reindeer that was not allowed to join in any reindeer games....;-)

The throat is worse though and as a contractor if I don't go into work then I don't get paid and so I am feeling particularly downhearted and unseasonable....Bah Humbug etc!

Friday 9 December 2011

1877 Russian Artillery Breakthrough

I had a hunch that the 'missing' Russian artillery was still lurking around simply because knowing Mr. Hardman as I do it would have inconceivable he would not have acquired the appropriate material whilst building up the Russo Turkish War collection. His attention to detail in these matters is legendary and completeness in all things is his usual modus operandi. I was right albeit for the wrong reason though! My theory that he had used the models for something else was incorrect as I received an email from him this morning detailing the fact that a further bag of 'stuff' including the said artillery had somehow missed being added to the already large bag of models I was presented with on Wednesday. It weighs two and half pounds so that is either an awful lot of artillery or a truck load of further reinforcements.

I may have to revise the number of models in the collection somewhat….;-)

Thinking a long way ahead I have pondered on how best to organise this little lot and have settled on using Charge! as the model for the unit compositions - as I have done so for the 1890s set up. Three 'companies' of sixteen rank and file each and a couple of supernumeraries seems a very practical set up for the infantry with 24 figure cavalry regiments and gun batteries of two models and crews. Everything will be based individually which means that I will have the flexibility to use the figures for various rule sets without worrying about rebasing. I will make some movement trays in any event for speed of movement on the table top.

Mention of Charge! may raise a few eyebrows given that the rules of the same name were originally focused on the wars in the latter part of the 18th century. As I recall the authors did point out that they could be extended forwards and backwards in time so tweaking them to include the effects of later shoulder arms and artillery would not be impossible - in fact I am sure I have seen later Victorian era adaptation of Charge! somewhere. One for the future methinks but for the moment my plan is to use the Portable Wargame (Colonial) or possibly Memoir of Battle, depending on how the mood takes me.

The Russo Turkish War of 1877 and an Act of Incredible Generosity....Part 2

Storming the Grivitsa Redoubt

Yesterday evening was very much one of sorting out 'stuff'. Aside from the Minifigs ships (which probably took me longer to photograph and write about than actually getting them down from the loft!) I also made a start on sorting out the Russo Turkish War of 1877 figure collection I recently acquired courtesy of Chris Hardman.

Without going into finite detail there is near on 800 foot figures and around 200 mounted with 10 guns and crews! Now that is a collection and a half and no mistake. The only area I need to buy anything for is Russian artillery as mysteriously there are only two guns and crews for them whilst there are eight for the Turks.  Everything else is there though and in droves! Luckily Lancashire Games (lancashiregames) carry a small range of models for this period and I have already approached them with a number of questions around the models they produce so this shortfall will be speedily addressed. I had a back up plan for this in any event because the uniforms of Russian gun crews of the period are very similar in cut to that of a well dressed ACW Union artilleryman (except they wore boots) so these could have been press ganged in if needed.

Realistically there is no way on God's green earth I will paint the entire collection but there is more than enough models for me to organise it for my own use in any way I choose. At the moment I am leaning towards a Charge! style organisation of 48 figure infantry regiments (perhaps two or three a side) plus command as this would fit in nicely with my gaming aspirations for the period. I will have plenty of time to decide though as the 'fictional' 1890 collection will come first. In the interim I will acquire the additional models I need though so that I know I will have everything to hand I need for when I do start.

....And yes Tim, it will probably be over several winters....;-)

Thursday 8 December 2011

The Navies of Fezia and Rusland....Part 3

BMC on the left and Minifigs on the right

I had the opportunity this evening to go through my collection of Minifigs ships and the three BMC models I recently acquired and made a surprising discovery. I actually own a Minifigs and a BMC model of the same ship! It absolutely confirms what I suspected that the Minifigs models were, ahem, inspired by the BMC versions. The model in question I will leave you to spot but suffice it to say it is a very late pre dreadnought!

Two more BMC battleships - I have yet to identify the ships they represent

I have more than sufficient for the two fleets although I would have preferred a couple more battleships - if needs be I can always scratch build them - and so I will keep a weather eye open on Ebay or even at my local toy and train fair.

These I am not sure about - according to the Minifigs list these are early turret battleships

I have yet to assign the ships to their respective fleets and so I will give this some thought over the weekend after having had a look through Conway's 1860 to 1905 which will come in very useful methinks!

A selection of Armoured Cruisers

Some more Armoured Cruisers

A pair of modern Light Cruisers

I have a number of cruisers and a good selection of torpedo boats/destroyers so these areas will be well represented which is handy as both nations make much use of smaller ships in their operations around the Fezian Sea.

The rest of the collection

I also have a few submarines and a solitary merchantman that will doubtless see service as a Rusland mine layer or an auxiliary of some kind.

I have settled on the traditional Victorian livery for the paint job rather than the wartime grey - simply because it looks a whole better!

The Navies of Fezia and Rusland... Part 2

Whereas the Rusland navy is a compact and modern force; ideally suited to operations within its geographical location the same cannot be said of the Fezian equivalent. It is certainly larger than that of Rusland but quantity does not necessarily mean quality. Fezia has a long naval tradition but has found the transition to steam from sail a difficult one. Her heavy industry is very much in its infancy and so most of her fleet units have been sourced from overseas. There is little homogeneity about the fleet and so it is quite usual to have squadrons made up of ships of varying ages and capabilities. This obviously has a cumulative effect on efficiency and it a maintenance and logistical nightmare. As a rule, new ships tend to be very efficient when first acquired but soon deteriorate through overuse and inadequate servicing. With the normally parlous state of the Fezian treasury being a major factor in the maintenance of the fleet the usual practise is to update and refit older ships rather than building new ones unless absolutely essential. This means that at any given point the Fezian navy could be using brand new vessels alongside much older types. This all sounds incredibly chaotic but in reality it works rather better than would be imagined. Invariably Fezia can deploy more ships than her most likely opponents and in a bewildering variety. As a rough rule of thumb the Fezian navy is routinely rotated between the Fezian and the Middle Sea via the all important straits of Istantinople and usually the most modern elements of the fleet are deployed against the most iminent threat.

The ships themselves are very much a mix of the old and the new and without a doubt the most effective part is invariably the cruising forces. These routinely travel the length and breadth of the Fezian empire (at least those parts reachable by sea) and are often used for flag showing or reminding rebellious subjects where the real power lies. The light forces are also effective simply because they are the easiest to maintain and so are more readily available than their larger contemporaries. It is very common to see a Fezian cruiser with an escort of torpedo boats deploying troops for raiding purposes and this is an area they excel in - that of combined operations, principally raiding. Fezians are fond of either very large or very small artillery and so their ships tend to extremes in terms of guns mounted. Battleships tend to very poorly served in respect of quick firing artillery and so most Fezian torpedo boats tend to have more guns than torpedoes in order to successfully engage more torpedo conscious opponents and to offset their own battleships weakness in this area. As a rule Fezian ships are quite large for their type but tend to encourage speed and range over protection.

It can be seen then that the navies of Rusland and Fezia are quite different in terms of ships used and tactical and strategic employment. This makes for a potentially interesting situation where the two protagonists display such varied and opposed capabilities. The scales are finely balanced with neither side having an overall advantage and certainly from the perspective of the Rusland forces the onus is on them to impose their presence on the Fezian Sea. All the Fezian navy needs to do is to ensure its survival and to maximise and maintain the advantage it enjoys in numbers.

The Navies of Fezia and Rusland... Part 1

One of the great attractions of running an 'imagi-nation' is being able to create a background to the events played out on the table top in as much or as little detail as required. I personally enjoy this facet very much as it means I can give free rein to my creativity and this am able to breath 'life' into the events depicted. I fully intend to expand on the background I have started upon with the events leading up to the battle of Keder Sirt in due course but for the moment I need to apply something similar to the naval forces in use by both nations. In part this will be dictated by the models I shall be using (that is the famous Minifigs/BMC ships) but the main thrust of what I am considering is how and why the ships in use came about. Let me expand my thinking.

The navy of Rusland facing that of Fezia is a largely self contained force because the geographical location (on the coast of 'not the Black Sea') it enjoys places a number of design implications upon the ships in use. Fezia possesses a number of very good naval bases and has a thriving ship building capacity, albeit of a relatively recent introduction. The geographical conditions under which the fleet usually operates means that, as a rule, the ships do not need to be long ranged (the only way out of the 'not the Black Sea' is via the straits controlled by Fezia) and so as a result of this most Rusland vessels above torpedo boat size tend to be smaller than their Fezian counterparts. As they are usually smaller than the equivalent Fezian type they do not need a massive coal bunker capacity, thus saving space. This also means that the required crews tend to be smaller than the equivalent Fezian type so that accomodation for them can also be reduced. In fact most Rusland crews tend to be quartered offshore in barracks rather than shipboard. Smaller vessels tend to be handier and this is an important factor when being used, as the fleet often is, for inshore work. With the emphasise on inshore work it generally means that Rusland ships tend to be heavily armoured for their type (as protection from close in shore based fire - something the Fezians are very adept at) and mount a significant amount of artillery, generally of lighter calibres as volume of fire tends to be preferred over weight.

An area in which Rusland excels to almost universal acclaim is in the construction and use of light ships, principally torpedo boats. These are of avearge size but are heavy on torpedoes - usually at the expense of guns - and are normally fast. Rusland is also very enthusiastic concening the laying of both defensive and offensive minefields and has converted several merchant ships into minelayers as well constructing a number of purpose built vessels. Most cruisers are also readily converted into minelayers if required.

To sum the Rusland navy up then, it can be seen that for the most part its major fleet units tend to be newer than their Fezian contemporaries; better armoured but slightly underarmed. They are relatively short ranged but within the the confines of their usual area of operations this is by no means a handicap. Their light units are modern and effective and with their torpedo capability form a useful support to the battle line and a serious threat to their enemies. By far the biggest advantage though is that the Rusland navy has both designed and built their ships to suit the environment in which they will be deployed rather than having to compromise due to many different and often conflicting obligations. It is a force not to be underestimated.

Part 2 of this post will look at the problems and the solutions to those problems adopted by the Fezian navy.

The Russo Turkish War of 1877 and an Act of Incredible Generosity

1877 Turkish infantry advancing

I am writing this post whilst still recovering from what can only be described as an overwhelming act of generosity. Most wargamers in my experience invariably acquire more in their collections than can be readily translated into armies or navies to use on the table top - the dreaded 'lead mountain' of much humour and banter. Even the most disciplined among us have fallen foul of this magpie-like tendency to acquire more 'kit' than can be realistically made use of at some point and the usual end result is the ignominious offloading of the same at the next available Bring and Buy or sold at a hefty discount to gaming acquaintances or even via Ebay. I have  happily acted as both benefactor and beneficiary over the years and fully expect this to continue as my own particular Wargaming Odyssey meanders ever onwards.

Yesterday evening I was in the role of beneficiary (and benefactor to be completely accurate) and I am still staggered by that which I had received. The sheer scale of my unbelievable good fortune has left me, rather unusually, somewhat at a loss for words.

My very good and long term friend and occasional wargaming nemesis, Chris Hardman, has passed over to me his unpainted 15mm collection of Pioneer Miniatures 1877 Russo Turkish War armies he acquired umpteen years ago and that have lain forlornly in his garage ever since. There are figures for both armies and when I say that the weight of the carrier bag full of metal he gave me weighed a shade over nine pounds you will perhaps have an idea of just how much kit we are talking about. I have not even begun to start sorting this lot out and aside from a quick glance in the bag have yet to see what is there other than to know that there is more than sufficient to keep me occupied for some time to come and then some!

This extraordinarily generous gift has given me the opportunity to tackle a 19th century campaign that is a little off the mainstream of the more usual American Civil/Franco Prussian/Colonial set up (not that I have anything against any of those!) and that for me personally is in an area of particular interest. I am two thirds of the way through reading Czar and Sultan by Archibald Forbes and so the timing of this early Christmas present could not be better if I had planned it myself!

It has given me much food for thought and so here is the (revised) plan. I shall build up the armies for 1877 on an historical basis and will tackle the naval side in the same way - possibly using Houstons ships or, more likely, scratch building the models. The respective armies I an tackling for 1890 will double as those of Fezia and Rusland and the Minifigs ships will provide the naval element. I will scope out the details fully over the weekend but as it stands at present the only completely fictional aspect of the whole 1890 imagi-nation will be the navies.

In closing I would like say an enormous thank you to Chris for this act of generosity - I am most certainly in his debt in a big way!

Wednesday 7 December 2011

A Cost and Time Effective Solution? - Perhaps!

It suddenly occurred to me whilst I was busy considering the naval aspects of 1890 for Fezia and Rusland that once again I had overlooked a ready made source of models I could use for the respective navies. I should point out that I would have no problem making the models that I needed based on historical Turkish and Russian types for 1890 and indeed, I have been looking forward to doing so but in the interests of both saving time and reducing the lead mountain (in my case probably more of a small hill!) it makes more sense for me to make use of what is already to hand. The ready made source to which I am referring to is of course, the Minifigs ships I own. Now these are ideal for use in an 'old school' way (they are very basic models from a detail perspective) but I am limited in terms of both the numbers available and the types I have. They are all slightly later ships (probably 1895 plus) as well but for imagi-nation purposes that is not too much of an issue. I will give this some careful consideration as I also have some of the dreadnought types for the range but would be disinclined to have two paint schemes on the go - standard pre dreadnought black, white and buff or wartime overall grey. It will mean that should I 'pre dread' the models in the earlier livery then the dreadnoughts will be largely redundant for the time being
Each side would have a few battleships and cruisers and a selection of torpedo boats which would more than sufficient for the forces envisaged. Using slightly later period ships means that I can use the 1890 to 1920 rules straight off the bat which will again be a big time saver. The models will also fit very nicely on the Hexon tiles. Ideally I would like to get a pair of 'standard' pre dreadnoughts and so will look to see what Ebay has on the go. The building project for the historical Russian and Turkish fleets has not been abandoned as such by any means. I intend tackling the same but for slightly further back - to 1877 in fact. The reasons for this minor deviation from the plan (Plan? What plan? I hear you say) will become obvious in due course - hopefully this evening for me and then to feature on the blog tomorrow for general consumption.
The plot will thicken, as plots tend to do….;-)

"A Date which will live in Infamy" - December 7, 1941

70 years ago today Japan launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, thereby ensuring that the United States were irrevocably drawn into World War 2.

Pearl Harbor

A big anniversary and a big reminder that sacrifice knows no international boundary.

At Long Last....

Mine, all mine....MWAHH, HAA, HAA HAAAA!!!!!

Finally, after an epic journey (as a result of usual my usual inexplicably delayed execution of intent!) my first copy of the Airfix Sink the Bismarck set arrived yesterday morning, courtesy of Ebay.

I cannot begin to tell you just how pleased I am to have this (and the knowledge that, ahem, Santa will be adding to the fun come 25/12!) and the central planning office (i.e. my head!) has been on overdrive ever since!  In truth I was hard pressed not to just get out the modelling tray and start on them there and then but luckily sanity prevailed and so I was able to restrain myself and so the box, after a quick examination (and noted that some of the smaller gun turrets have some skewed gun barrels....) the box was consigned to the naval section of my storage where the KGVs and the Gneisenaus awaited them.

The first thing that struck me though, seeing all the sprues of pieces, was how much material there is for that would be of much use in other models....;-)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Archibald Forbes and the War of 1877

The man himself - from a caricature in Vanity Fair

I am currently reading, via my ebook reader, Czar and Sultan by Archibald Forbes. It is an account of the Russo Turkish War of 1877 and is a cracking read. Aside from the enthralling story (I will not give anything away as you can download the same for free) it is a subject of much personal interest and with many ideas I shall incorporate into the ongoing saga of Fezia and Rusland. A brief overview of the life of this fascinating gentlemen can be found here Archibald Forbes and he certainly 'got around' in his role as a War Correspondent. During 1877 he covered the war from the Russian side and was present at most of the major actions. The book is available to download at czarsultan and it comes with my most definite recommendation!

Archibald Forbes and a random selection of Eastern European types 

Reading this book has made me realise just what a boon having an electronic reader is (mine is the Sony PRS 600) as many books that would be hard to get hold of in paper form can be obtained, with a little digging, via the net. Don't misunderstand me - it will never replace the sheer delight in buying and reading a good book (and as students of military/naval history we all read a lot of books about our chosen interest) but from a convenience perspective and for the ability to be able to access those hard to find titles it is a blessing.

Monday 5 December 2011

Towards 2012 - Now that the Cataclysm has been averted....

I had a very lazy weekend. After a busy few days at work; coupled with some inevitable train dramas it meant that I was in need of some 'r and r' and so this weekend was 'it'. No painting, no modelling, no gaming - just allowing my thoughts to wander and taking care of a few PC related issues. I had a minor problem with my Ebook reader in that rather foolishly I had tidied up the downloaded files on my PC and had not considered the impact on my reader. I charged it up and suddenly had gone from 120 to 5 books! Sorting out the resultant chaos was easy enough but it took a while to do so - mainly because I took the opportunity to tidy up the said download files on my PC. One thing I did do though was to download the manual onto the reader for future reference.

I must confess to being somewhat behind the technological curve in terms of technical ability and so the exercise probably took me longer than it should have done but I was pleased that my back up enabled me to restore the reader to its former glory - and with some extras!
Whilst waiting for the various screen prompts I gave some thought to the 'plan' for next year on the gaming front; as well as reviewing the events of this year. Next year is surprisingly modest in terms of what I plan to tackle. On the ship front I will have the scratch built 1890 Turkish and Russian fleets to do (as soon as the remaining ACW models are completed) followed by the 1/1200th WW2 North Atlantic kit. I have a pair of 1/3000th items to consider - the U-boat convoy game and the Spanish Civil War; both of which I have the models for.

I will get the two 'toy soldier' 15mm 1890 armies finished and then would look to tackle something for Fezia and Rusland on a 1930s basis. Any other 'land' stuff will of course be using my block armies and these can be used as and when the whim takes me. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt remember that I had expressed an interest and intent in gaming Operation Barbarossa in some fashion but I am now unsure that this will take place. The 1930s war between Fezia and Rusland will take precedence and will provide sufficient mechanical interest!  Incidentally, the 1930s armies will of course be organised with the Portable War game in mind and naturally with some mini campaign applications thrown in for good measure.

The first task will be to finish the ACW ships and ideally I would like to have this done by the end of the year. It is 'doable' but I need to start 'doing' rather than just thinking about it!

Overall I am fairly satisfied with the way this year has gone in terms of gaming achievements. The 1890 to 1920 naval rules have at last got to the shape I want and the block armies in conjunction with 3d terrain has been a revelation. As a concept for use with other applications; both of historical period or land or sea (or even air) based it has much to commend it. Best of all though is the potential for my new den - a potential I am only just beginning to make use of.

Isn't there a Chinese proverb along the lines of 'May you live in interesting times.'?

I certainly hope so!

Sunday 4 December 2011

1:1200th and WW2 Naval Wargames

So close I can almost taste it....

Ok, I know that these models are hugely oversized for most gaming needs - especially if you are using a table top - but the attraction of making up some plastic models in this scale is one that I would not be able to resist; and nor have I!

You may recall my abortive attempt to acquire half a dozen sets of the newly re released Airfix: Sink the Bismarck set of models. Well, I happen to know that Santa has a couple of copies of this for me come on 25/12 and I have also just scored a further set via Ebay. I have also picked up a couple of Revell Duke of Yorks and a pair of Gneisenaus for good measure.

I have been looking at what else is available in this scale from a metals perspective and I was quite surprised to see that there is a reasonable amount of kit available - certainly sufficient for what I want - although most of which will need to come from the US which makes it a little more on the expensive side. The numbers I will need will be fairly low in any event so the proportional cost will not be excessive.

I am hugely tempted to use these models as the basis for the Fezian and Rusland fleets circa 1935 to 1940 to support the land based armies for that period when I eventually get around to them. The only problem is that they are so distinctive looking - the Bismarck looks like, well the Bismarck - that it would be difficult to visualise them as anything else without some fairly fairly radical chopping about. I am happy to undertake that if need be (indeed I have a number of ideas along those lines) but it then becomes a more substantial exercise than merely assembling and painting the models.

I will need to give this some thought in due course but to be honest I am leaning towards a WW2 North Atlantic type set up initially; mainly because this is a long standing interest of mine and I would really enjoy the model making aspect of the exercise. The rules would need some careful thought as for fewer ships my usual fast play approach (or at least the, as I term it, 'bag you're dead!' mechanics) would not be appropriate as the actions will be almost at skirmish level. Strategically it would of course be a different story.

One for the new year then, after many other things have been attended to!

Friday 2 December 2011

1860 to 1890 Naval Ramming

The Italian Ironclad Ram Affondatore - sunk as a result of damage received at the Battle of Lissa in 1866, she was re-floated and repaired and served the Italian navy for another 40 years!

Unsurprisingly the Ram attack has caused me a number of minor headaches in respect of how to undertake it within a war game. I have the bare bones of how it should work and intend incorporating it in the Close Range Attack phase of the rules rather than more commonly within the movement phase. This will save incremental or sequential movement which can slow things up considerably - especially when there is a lot of such attacks under consideration. As a fudge this will also include spar torpedo attacks as essentially in order to attack they have to 'ram' a vessel.

The basic idea I have is that a player declares his Close Range Attack as normal and so the target is now faced with three options. It can respond with its own Close Range Attack (this is primarily when facing off attacking destroyer/torpedo boats in the 1890 to 1920 set but is the same in principle for the earlier period) and so the combat proceeds as normal. It can ignore the attack - typically to ensure that it can fire in the subsequent gunnery phase. Finally, the new choice is to Evade and this is specifically for use against a ram or early spar torpedo based attack.

I have a process worked out for this that needs a little road testing but the gist of it is that attacking ram needs to roll a d6 and score higher than his target's speed to make an attack. The target must also roll a d6 needing to score higher than the attackers speed to evade. If both are successful then the ram attack damage is calculated at half its normal rate to represent a glancing blow against the target. If the attacker passes and the target fails the evasion roll the the attack is at full effect. If both fail then the attack does not happen at all; similarly if the target passes and the attacker fails then that is also a failed attack.

Using this simple technique means that a fast ram is more likely to catch a slow opponent. The evasion roll represents each side lining up to attack or dodge the blow or to minimise the impact where possible. The resolution of the blow itself will be the same as for a conventional Close Range Attack so the mechanics are nicely aligned.

It looks very much like the rules will be easy enough to put together - ship specifications will be far more problematic although the 1860 to 1905 Conways will be absolutely essential for this part!

Thursday 1 December 2011

Delayed trains, the Spanish Civil War and Naval Warfare 1860 to 1890

Scratch built ACW Confederate Ironclads - prior to basing and hoping to inspire the builder to finish the remaining 32 models!

After a disastrous train journey home last night due to an unfortunate fatality on the line (I was going to be a little late in any event due to a job interview) I was not able to tackle very much at all by the time I had had my dinner and relaxed after the rigours of the day.

Luckily the train was only half full so I had plenty of space to sit in and room to think. During the extra 90 minutes of my journey I managed to finish the book I have been reading (Heroic Voices of the Spanish Civil War - Memories of the International Brigades) and to get some preliminary thoughts down on paper for the 1860 to 1890 variant of the Portable Naval War Game.

The basic approach and mechanics of the rules will be identical to the 1890 to 1920 version. The number of generic ship types will be increased to incorporate two additional types - gunboats and a category I am calling Improvised Warships. This will cover a very wide range of ship sizes, protection levels and weapons carried and is designed primarily with the ACW in mind. Guns will be split into rifles and smooth bore artillery and I will need to consider firing arcs in far more detail than previously. I have some plans for this that are very simple and made even more so by the use of a hexed playing surface (I knew there was a good reason for buying the Hexon tiles!). I will also need to make provision for the use of the ram attack and again, have partially addressed that as well. I am reasonably confident that the 1890 to 1920 rules can be taken back in time to cover the earlier period but I need to ensure that the flavour of the times is captured so that the resultant game is not just an afterthought (technically I suppose it is but the intention is that it is not if you see what I mean!).

All in all then, the proposed earlier variant of the Portable Naval War Game seems to be a lot less work than I originally envisaged although I dare say that statement will come back to haunt me in due course. The first play test will feature the ACW river collection which will be receiving some urgent attention over the coming weeks - hopefully to finished by the end of the year.